New Brunswick

Lee Cohen plans legal clinic to help refugee claimants in New Brunswick

Saint John native Lee Cohen will soon be opening a legal clinic to provide free services to refugee claimants in New Brunswick.

Halifax-based lawyer Lee Cohen is scouting the Moncton area for a spot to set up a clinic to help refugees

Lee Cohen says he plans to have a new legal clinic set up in New Brunswick by the end of September. The clinic will offer free legal services to refugee claimants. (CBC)

Saint John native Lee Cohen will soon be opening a legal clinic to provide free services to refugee claimants in New Brunswick.

"We should not be surprised to see the clinic will be far busier than even we anticipated," said Cohen, a leader in human rights and immigration law who lives in Halifax.

The exact location has yet to be determined, but Cohen is scouting the Moncton area and said he received a donation from the municipality of Riverview.

Cohen said the idea has been on his mind for a number of years.

The Halifax clinic he opened in 2000 deals with about 60 active files on any given week and some of those claimants are travelling from New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

A five-member board has been established in New Brunswick to be chaired by Moncton lawyer Josie Marks.

The New Brunswick Law Foundation is providing funding to help launch the clinic. 

The Town of Riverview also provided a $2,500 donation.

The non-profit clinic will also be looking for other ways to raise money.

A recent job posting for the executive director position attracted more than 30 applications, said Cohen.

The board has drawn up a short list of candidates and interviews are taking place in the coming weeks. 

Help those who need it

Cohen said refugees enter the Maritimes in different ways. 

Some of them come to Canada legally and then decide while they're here that they can't go back to their country of origin.

That stream would included temporary foreign workers and foreign students who obtain visas to attend university.

Another stream of people make their way to the country without documentation. In Nova Scotia, Cohen said a common example of that would be stowaways on ships. 

"Before I opened my clinic in Halifax, I observed an increasing number of people appearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada and losing their cases because their paperwork was so poorly prepared and because they were so poorly prepared to give testimony," said Cohen.

"And they have no money to hire lawyers." 

Cohen said he's planning to open the clinic by the end of September.